BUFFALO -- State government records show that only about one-third of New Yorkers required to use special ignition locks after drunken driving convictions ever get the devices installed, The Buffalo News reported Sunday.
The newspaper said a review of records since the law took effect two years ago shows that 23,000 motorists in the state have avoided equipping their vehicles with the ignition interlock technology, often by staying off the road to avoid the expense.
The devices sample a driver's breath and block a vehicle from starting if their blood-alcohol level is 0.025 percent, well below the state DWI level of 0.08 percent.
Authorities said many DWI-convicted motorists will simply stay off the road and wait out the six months to a year they would otherwise have to use the locks. But they said others are being caught behind the wheel of a friend's or relative's vehicle.
"If they truly do not have a vehicle and are not driving, then we don't have a problem," said John Sullivan, project coordinator for the Erie County STOP DWI program, which oversees the drivers required to use interlocks.
But "they are just breaking the law" if they use other vehicles, he said. "Drunk drivers are notoriously bad drivers anyway. Statistically they make a lot of driving mistakes. They should be picked up eventually."
Robert Maccarone, director of the state Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, said in a letter to county officials that as of March, about 70 percent of the offenders statewide "continue to transfer ownership or represent that they no longer have a vehicle to operate."
He warned that "numerous studies indicate that many of these operators will continue to drive, despite the penalties."